Turkey takes do-or-die game against Hungary
Abdullah Avcı is likely to have his most difficult match as the national football team coach when Turkey meets Hungary tonight. Turkey risks being left behind in the race to the 2014 World Cup, while Avcı’s job is at stake as well.For the Turkish national football team, nothing less than a victory will do when it meets Hungary in a 2014 World Cup qualification Group D match tonight.
After two defeats in three matches, Turkey is left far behind the top spots in the group and early elimination is just round the corner.
Romania and the Netherlands are setting the pace with a perfect nine points from three matches each, while Hungary, with six points, also stand in front of Turkey. Playing in Hungary tonight, Turkey desperately needs a win to stay afloat.
High-flying Romania will also test its group contention credentials when it hosts red hot favorite the Netherlands tonight.
After losing to the Dutch 2-0 on the first night of the qualifications, Turkey found some morale with a 3-0 win over Estonia. However, a 1-0 defeat to Romania on Oct. 12 has put Turkey in a very difficult position. Apart from the defeat, Turkey’s ineffectual performance was not promising.
In order to boost the team’s winning chances, the Turkish Football Federation announced extravagant winning bonuses for the Hungary match, saying each player would receive 150,000 Turkish Liras for a win. These high bonuses, which were announced yesterday as a seemingly last resort act to fire up the team, have been criticized by fans and former players alike.
“Those big bonuses in qualifications were unheard of during our times. It was a matter of honor back then,” former ace İlhan Mansız, whose memorable golden goal against Senegal sent Turkey into the 2002 World Cup semifinal, said yesterday.
However, even the high bonuses might not help Turkey, who will be picking from a highly depleted squad to face Hungary. Full back Gökhan Gönül, defensive midfielder Mehmet Topal, playmaker Selçuk İnan and forward Burak Yılmaz have all been left out of the squad following the Romania game, and the biggest blow came yesterday when it was announced that Atletico Madrid star Arda Turan, definitely Turkey’s highest-profile player, will also miss the Hungary match due to injury.
Gaziantepspor defender Serdar Kurtuluş and Reading midfielder Jem Paul Karacan have both been added to the squad.
Left back Hasan Ali Kaldırım said the team was well aware of the importance of the game.
“It is a final-like match. This is one that we certainly must win,” the Fenerbahçe player said to NTV Spor. “If we fail to win, [qualifying for the] 2014 [World Cup] will be very difficult … We know that we did not play as we should have done against Romania. We need to take lessons and beat Hungary no matter what.”
Abdullah Avcı’s position as national team coach will come under even more intense scrutiny if the team fails to win. Avcı, who has led Turkey to five wins and five defeats in 10 matches since coming to the post last year, has faced much criticism from the Turkish media for the team’s poor performance so far.